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An RPG Which Demands Your Attention: Shadows of Esteren

Elliott and I had the pleasure of speaking with Valentin Rebondy and Clovis Fremont 0f Agate Editions at Gen Con and, while the interview should be up in the next few hours or so, I wanted to share a peek at Shadows of Esteren (or in its native French, Les Ombres d’Esteren) as it truly is a stunning piece of work. The role playing game is set in what wouldn’t be considered a traditional fantasy world but rather a much more subdued and mysterious realm where magic and legendary creatures exist but aren’t encountered on a regular basis. In fact, folks in this game world could go there entire lives without seeing anything out of the ordinary. What’s striking is what I’ll term as a very European style of setting – I’ve found many RPGs that begin their life cycle outside the U.S. gravitate toward much more atmospheric and realistic game worlds without a lot of completely over the top elements. The artwork we’ve seen so far is smashing and we’ll have a full review in the very near future.

Happily, I can report Studio 2 Publishing is the English language distributor for Shadows of Esteren and the game book is available for purchase from their website while the PDF format will be available shortly. Les Ombres d’Esteren has an extremely passionate fan base in France, and I can see why people are digging it, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t start spreading the word here in the States!

Here’s a peek:

Shadows of Esteren is a medieval role-playing game, with an emphasis on the horrific and the Gothic. Drawing inspiration from Celtic myths, this universe has a discreetly fantastic side hidden under a bleak, realistic surface. This world is populated with humans who have to cope with tough daily lives, and face a supernatural threat lurking in the dark. With the focus of its adventures being investigation and survival, Shadows of Esteren is a game that favors an immersive mood and interactions among the Players.

This particular atmosphere is drawn from several sources of inspiration: the harshness and romanticism of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart; the universes of Tim Burton, particularly the one of Sleepy Hollow; Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke; as well as Berserk, the manga by Kentaro Miura. Regarding role-playing, Shadows of Esteren would be somewhere between Ravenloft and Call Of Cthulhu.

  • A Dark Universe. Esteren is a harsh, medieval world where the Characters will be confronted with horror and multi-faced threats. However, this does not imply they are doomed to perish; their survival will depend on their ingenuity and bravery. Gothic tradition can be found in awe-inspiring landscapes where the forces of nature rage, a perfect setting for tragic and passionate stories.
  • Low Fantasy. In Esteren, there are no fantasy peoples such as elves or dwarves, nor are there fireball-casting wizards. Although supernatural elements are far from absent, they manifest in a subtle manner, giving way to a gritty, realistic universe.
  • An Intuitive Game System. Shadows of Esteren is a game of atmosphere, where immersion and interactions among the Players have priority over any kind of simulative gameplay. This is why the game system was designed to be intuitive and easy to become familiar with.

Book 1 – Universe: Contents

Intended for Players as well as for Game Leaders, this is the core book of the Shadows of Esteren role-playing game series. Within this 288-page hardcover book, you will find:

  • A game universe. The discovery of Esteren’s world through the eyes of its inhabitants, in a full-color book containing more than 160 illustrations.
  • A game system. Favoring atmosphere and interactions among the Players, the system will notably allow you to create your Characters, manage the evolution of their sanity, use Magience, discover the secret of Oghamic arts, invoke the power of the Creator, etc.
  • Player aids. Six Character archetypes, technical texts about the conception of a group of Characters, a complete glossary with an index, the Character sheet, etc.

Here’s a look at some video from their immensely successful Kickstarter project…

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Jeff McAleer

Founder, editor-in-chief, and host of The Daily Dope and other TGG media. Jeff tackles any and all topics but his main gaming focus is war and strategy, RPGs, and miniatures. He's also a fan of independent and small press comics. Plus, Jeff is certainly never at a loss for an opinion...

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